KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Rural Thoughts On Improving The Health Care System; Plus Other State News

Kaiser Health News examines rural health care in Kentucky and finds that models for community health care that operate there could benefit the nation's health care system despite. The article notes that Hazard, Ky., was labeled as one of the worst health care regions in America by the 2008 American Human Development Report, but "there are enduring models in places like Hazard that could prove instructive to rebuilding healthy communities across the nation, both rural and urban." KHN looks at the system in Hazard through the eyes of four residents working to change and improve the health care system. For instance, workers with one health outreach group "are previous clients of community health outreach projects … (d)uring visits, they evaluate patients' living conditions to see if they qualify for housing and medical care under an array of federal programs, and then complete oral inventories of each client's health history" (Browning, 11/13).

Also in Kentucky's health news, WBKO reports that the state's  "public option" plan, Kentucky Access, isn't turning out to be as successful as officials hoped. "Over the past 15 years, the $220 million designated for the program has been steadily taken away by the state government to cover general items." The plan, which covered 11 percent of the population, saw premiums increase and people drop out of the plan (Dearbone, 11/12).

In other state developments -

CBS News/The Associated Press: The North Carolina state health insurance plan for state employees is continuing to pay out more in claims than it budgeted for in the first three months of the fiscal year. "Lawmakers received State Health Plan data Thursday showing paid medical claims are 4 percent higher than expected through Sept. 30. That's better compared to an 8 percent increase through August" (11/12). 

The Philadelphia Inquirer: In Philadelphia, municipal managers will have their health plan changed next year to save the city $6 million by increasing co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums, though officials say there are no "significant" reductions in benefits. "Independence Blue Cross retained its contract with the city over a competing proposal from Aetna at a saving of $4.2 million for taxpayers, said the city's benefits manager, James R. Startare. Similar bids for prescription, dental, and vision resulted in an additional saving of $2.1 million, officials said" (Shields, 11/13). 

CBS News/The Associated Press, in a separate story: The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Mississippi Medicaid officials should have sought approval before "tinkering with a law that would change reimbursements for pharmacists." Pharmacies sued in 2009 after a change in the method of reimbursement in the state, which spent $328 million on the program last fiscal year. "The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a chancery judge's ruling that the Division of Medicaid had no authority to change how pharmacists were paid to fill prescriptions for people enrolled in the program" (11/12).

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